Monday, February 20, 2006

Health Alert: Lymphedema study

(National) February 10, 2006 - One of the side effects of breast cancer treatment when lymph nodes are removed or scarred is lymphedema . It causes painful swelling in the arm near the affected, breast but there is a new study to help patients cope with the problem.

Valjean Waddy is a breast cancer survivor. She says, "When I've tried to buy clothes, one arm fits tighter. Some, some shirts that I have I can't wear."

Waddy hopes strength training will stop the swelling in her arm. The 43-year-old has lymphedema - fluid builds up in her left arm as a result of her cancer treatment. For years, women with the condition have been told to take it easy.

Dr. Kathryn Schmitz, "These women who have had breast cancer treatment are told not to lift anything heavier than five to fifteen pounds ever again in their lives." But Schmitz doesn't buy it, "If someone has had a damaged heart, do you tell them to sit down and not to do any exercise again? No."

So, women like Valjean are working out as part of a unique study at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Schmitz says, "What we're proposing is that twice-a-week strength training is actually safe for these women, healthful for them, health promoting."

Participants start out with the lightest weights and add on gradually. A pilot study shows the exercise is safe and participants reported an improvement in their symptoms.

Dr. Schmitz says, "They got a lot stronger, that their body fat percentage went down, their fitness improved and we found that their quality of life improved as well."
Lymphedema can be very painful and disfiguring. It can also interfere with wound healing and increase the risk of infection.

"It's a chronic condition," explains Dr. Schmitz. "It's not something that will ever go away once you are diagnosed. And the issue is keeping it at bay."

Depending on her findings, Dr. Schmitz hopes to organize an exercise program for lymphedema patients in the future.

Women interested in taking part in the study in Philadelphia can call 215-898-5112.

The National Lymphedema Network website is

Posted 4:52pm by Bryce Mursch


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